Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Bringing Forth The End Of Days

by Simon Law

In spite of the near future setting, readers of Bringing Forth The End Of Days could be forgiven for thinking they'd stumbled onto a 19th century novel, when life passed by at a more sedate pace and editors didn't always demand a body on the first page. For several pages the central character, Tom Harvey, sits pondering faith and the destructive nature of mankind, before there's even a whiff of anything happening. Granted, we're told at the very start that something terrible has happened to the world, if the title weren't enough of a clue. But Tom's rambling opinions, which aren't even all that interesting, will test anyone's patience.

Fortunately the novel's premise has some dramatic potential, when the author eventually gets around to describing it. The world's plant life has died out, destroyed by a cancer that affects all species. This has left the atmosphere depleted of oxygen, which in turn has killed off the animals. Isolated groups of humans survive with the help of machines capable of photosynthesis. They rely on these machines for food, as well as for breathable air. Although it's quite far-fetched, the notion of Earth with an environment that's almost as hostile as deep space is intriguing.

However Simon Law's vision of this future is patchy. Sometimes he gives us a detailed depiction of this very different world, where people are confined by the range of oxygen canisters and petrol tanks. There's synthesised food that tastes different according to the weather conditions, and people who have undergone disfiguring procedures that allow them to breathe without oxygen tanks. Yet there are parts of the story that cross the line from unlikely to downright implausible, and it gets harder and harder to take it seriously. There's a miracle stem cell cure that leaves one of the characters with superhuman healing powers. There's still electricity in this post-apocalyptic Britain. And a band of religious extremists calling themselves the Jehovah's Enforcers are dead set on finishing off any survivors they find. These parts fail to impress because the author hasn't paid enough attention to the details. So it's very weak on things like character motivation, or science you can believe in if you have more than a passing interest in the subject.

Unfortunately a lack of realism isn't actually this novel's biggest problem. If only it were. The real trouble is that Simon Law doesn't possess the talent to translate a half-decent idea into a compelling story. He uses too many words, often saying the same thing two different ways and piling up adjectives in a narrative that's stuffed full of the trivia of daily life and one-dimensional characters. There's hardly any dialogue. Exposition dominates the first half of the book, and readers may despair that any of the story will be told blow-by-blow. Eyelids, meet gravity.

There's some action towards the end, along with high levels of profanity and violence. At least something happens, which should make things more exciting, at least in theory.

Sadly the relief is short-lived. Not only is the action too little, too late, it's also completely absurd. The author may have been reaching for fear, or perhaps suspense, and definitely excitement. But he goes too far over the top with blood and mayhem and he shoots wide, hitting accidental comedy instead.

Bringing Forth The End Of Days contains the germ of one or two good ideas, ruined by awful execution.

Book Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
  Not For The Squeamish  

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The Culled cover    

The Culled by Simon Spurrier
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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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